Saturday, December 27, 2014

Christmas Morning Coffee Cake

 Given the collective cooking skills of my mother's side of the family, it should not be terribly surprising that our "family recipe" for our traditional Christmas morning sour cream coffee cake came from one of my mother's neighbors, Mrs. Krantz.  My mother made this coffee cake every year until I was 16.  I have made it every year since.  But it just isn't Christmas without our coffee cake.


for the cake 
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
2 C sugar
1 1/2 C sour cream
4 eggs
pinch salt
1 T baking powder
2 t baking soda
1 t vanilla extract
3 C flour
for the streusel
3 T butter
1/2 C packed brown sugar
2 t cinnamon
1 C chopped nuts (we usually use walnuts, but sometimes use pecans)

I often make the streusel ahead since I make the cake on Christmas Eve, so I'll do the streusel that morning and then do the cake at night, just to save a bit of work.  So basically you just put it in a bowl and mix it together (I use my fingers) until everything is evenly distributed throughout.  Then I set it aside.

Preheat your oven to 350 F.

Cream the butter and sugar together in a stand mixer (or using a hand mixer) until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs mixing after each one, then add the vanilla.

Sift together the dry ingredients; the flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder.

Add the dry ingredients to the creamed sugar mixture alternately with the sour cream and mix to make it a batter.

Spray or butter a bundt pan thoroughly.  Sprinkle the bottom of the bundt pan with some of the streusel (maybe a third of it?).  Then add half the batter, sprinkle the rest of the streusel to create an even layer over the batter in the bundt.  Add the rest of the batter.  Bake for 60-70 minutes or until a skewer or toothpick comes back clean and the cake springs back a bit at the touch.  When you cut into it, the streusel should make a nice sugar swirl through the cake.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas!

Dinner last night came off beautifully. I'm afraid the pictures will have to wait though...

  • Heated the empanaditas at 400 for 25 minutes and then transferred them to the toaster oven to keep warm.  They hold up very well.
  • Took the puff pastry for the chorizo puffs out of the freezer to thaw.
  • Rounded up serving dishes, covered baking sheets with foil to ease clean up afterwards and made sure the table was set.
  • Started to layer the strata for Christmas morning.

  • Transferred the empanaditas to the toaster oven.
  • Put the pork pie and the cheese and spinach pie in the oven at 3:25 to heat for about an hour.
  • Spooned the hummus into a serving bowl, took the green beans out of the fridge and prepare a saucepan for boiling them in.  
  • Finished making the strata and popped it back in the fridge so it only needs to bake tomorrow.

  • Began making chorizo puffs (recipe below).
  • Took the grape leaves out and put them in a serving dish
  • Took the plastic wrap off the eggplant

  • Kept making chorizo puffs
  • Set out the deviled eggs
  • Warmed the flour tortillas and corn tortillas by putting them in the toaster oven (at 140F) 
  • Put the hoisin sauce into a bowl
  • Set out serving spoons

  • Took the pork pie and cheese and spinach pie out of the oven
  • Heated up the asian chicken
  • Set out the dipping sauce for the empanaditas
  • Put the chorizo puffs in the oven

We serve buffet style, with platters all around my kitchen/dining room counters.  Everything turned out wonderfully.  The best part was knowing that I can do it faster and better next time.  Honestly the chorizo puffs were the most work of the evening and I was supposed to make them on the weekend and freeze them but I'd had a bad cold so I had to do them last minute.  But everything else was simply warming up or cooked quickly. 


1 package chourico or linguica, if you can get the Portuguese kind, that's what we use
1 package puff pastry
1 egg, well-beaten (egg substitute would be fine here)

Take the puff pastry out to thaw according to the package directions.  Mine (Pepperidge Farms) needed 40 minutes to thaw.  Prepare a rolling area with a decent amount of flour, the puff pastry tends to release some water as it thaws so you'll want to make sure it doesn't stick.

We are usually using frozen chourico because you can't get the Portuguese kind locally, and it's what we prefer.  If you are doing it from frozen too, you'll need to have thawed it earlier.  The puffs are a little bit better if you remove the sausage casing and this is very hard to do with fresh sausage, but with cold/thawed, you can usually slit it with a knife and just peel back.  If you can do it, it keeps you from needing to eat the puffs in one bite.  If you can't, consider chopping up the chourico into bits rather than in rounds.  Anyway, once you've removed the casing, slice rounds of the chourico, probably 1/4" thick.  Roll out your puff pastry till quite thin.  Lay out a single row of chourico along one edge.  You want to fold the puff pastry over that row, so guess how much you'll need to cover the chourico and then slice down the puff pastry so you have one big piece set aside for use later and then a narrow strip that's just twice as wide as the chourico.  Paint the half of the narrow strip that doesn't have the chourico on it with eggwash.  Then fold over the pastry and using a knife, cut in between each round of chourico to make a square packet.  I then use an extra dab of egg and fold down the corners so it is round and pop it on a waiting sheet pan.  Once you've done one strip of chourico filled pastry, go back to your big piece of pastry and then repeat the process until you are done.  It is not particularly fast work and your fingers get gross, so wipe and wash when needed.

When all your puffs are done, put them in a 450 oven for 8 minutes or until puffed and golden.  

Wednesday, December 24, 2014


Can you call it that on Christmas Eve?  We're halfway through!

This morning after my post, I finished making the eggplant and it's marinating on the counter until dinner.

We took a break to eat some sandwiches with sweet soppressata, tavern ham, hot capicola, prosciutto and provolone.

We had some turkey on hand for Ryan as well.

Then after lunch I finished layering the streusel and the batter in the coffee cake (for tomorrow morning) and then popped it in the oven.

Christmas Eve Countdown

Again, I collapsed into bed last night before managing a post.

Yesterday at 5pm

The bolognese sauce is bubbling away on the stove for that night's dinner.

Chicken sausages are warming on the stove and cheese is being grated for the Christmas morning strata

Yesterday at 5:02
We decide to heat up the roast half duck to begin preparing the faux peking duck for Christmas Eve (we toss out the orange sauce packet).

Yesterday at 5:03 pm

My mother explains that she assumed I had bought the duck.  I explain that it is not readily available up here and therefore I could not have possibly bought the duck.

Yesterday at 5:08 pm

We call Uncle John and explain we are a protein short for our meal and need a replacement dish that will not involve going to the store.  After learning I have over 5lbs of chicken drumsticks available (Shout out to Costco!) he explains that I should confit my drumsticks and use them to make little asian chicken pancakes.

Yesterday at 7pm

The chicken drumsticks come out of the pot, shedding luscious moist chicken meat as they do.

8:30 am

The streusel is made for the coffee cake I'll be baking for tomorrow and the dry ingredients are sifted together and set aside.  I'll do the wet and bake it later so it's fresh.

The dipping sauce (far right) for the empanaditas is mixed up and popped back in the fridge.

Need to cook some eggplant right after breakfast, but then I'm pretty sure the rest of the cooking will be done right before dinner.  Hoping it's not too much!

Full Menu for Tonight
Cheese and Spinach pie - in the freezer -  (heat up in the oven)
Empanaditas and Dipping sauce - in the fridge and freezer - (heat up in the oven)
Traditional Pork Pie - in the fridge - (heat up in the oven)
Asian Chicken - in the fridge - (heat up on stove)
Hummus and Pita - in the fridge and on the counter - (cut up pita and put hummus in a bowl)
Grape leaves -
    Two kinds, traditional Greek and Turkish with currents, pine nuts onions (purchased) - in the fridge 
    (plate and serve)
Deviled eggs - in the fridge - (put plate on counter)
Asian duck - in the fridge - (heat stovetop and prepare pancakes)
Eggplant - not made!  Will start it after breakfast.
Green beans - not made!  Made on stove top, right before dinner
Chorizo in puff pastry - not made!  At this point it needs to be done right before dinner.  Boo.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

T minus 2 Part 2

Around 1pm

The deviled eggs are done, if a bit salty.  Maybe don't use the full 1/2 tsp?  

The rice pudding is on the stove.

1:30 pm

The rice pudding is still on the stove despite Ina Garten having said it would be done at 1.

Ina Garten's Rice Pudding
(my version)

3/4 cup raisins
2 tablespoons dark rum
3/4 cup white basmati rice
1/2 tsp kosher salt
4 cups milk 
1 cup cream
1 1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1 extra-large egg beaten
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Put the raisin in a bowl and pour in the rum.  Put the rice in a pan with the 1 1/2 cups of water.  Bring to a bowl, then reduce to a simmer, and simmer covered 8-9 minutes, or until the liquid is absorbed. Stir in the milk and the sugar, bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer again.  Simmer 25 minutes uncovered until the rice is soft.  Well, my rice was not soft and my pudding was really just milk with rice grains floating in it, so I can't sign off on this.  Maybe my simmer was too low, because I have a legit simmer burner?  At any rate, after 25 minutes of nothing, I moved the rice to the hotter burner, gave it another 15-20 minutes and it started to seem more like rice pudding.  Then add the beaten egg and cook for one more minute.  Remove from the heat; add the vanilla, the cup of cream and the raisins and any rum they may not have absorbed. I forgot to add the raisins.  No worries.  I stirred them in once I poured it into the bowl.  If I hadn't told you, you'd never have known.  Pour it into a bowl and pop it in the fridge.  Cover with plastic (right up against the pudding, to prevent a skin).


T minus 2

I took the pictures needed to update you last night, but then I went to bed instead of updating you.

Last night…7pm
I had rolled out and baked the sugar cookies and then set about icing them. I was working with dried egg whites rather than meringue powder and so I made up the recipe for the royal icing which maybe wasn't my finest culinary moment.  It ended up too drippy and I fixed it, but by then I was tired and did an unimpressive job icing the cookies.

Moral: If at all possible, bake then take a break before doing the icing.

2 days until Christmas…9am

A dozen eggs have been hardboiled and popped in the fridge ready to become deviled eggs.

I finished icing the Christmas trees!

The rugelach pinwheels are coming out of the oven in batches.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Happy Holidays!

I know, I know, I've been a long time gone.  But I am hosting this Christmas for the first time ever!  I ran into an acquaintance at the library and she asked if I'd be cooking brunch or dinner.  I laughed.  One meal is for wimps.  I am hosting from today straight through to next Monday.

I figured I'd give you all the blow-by-blow in case you felt like living vicariously (or having a guide on how to host people for 8 days without going insane).

3 days until Christmas

Current status (8:30 am)

One batch of ginger crinkles in the oven and one on the counter.  I made the dough, rolled the balls in sugar and froze them a week ago.  This morning I just spread them in parchment and baked them.

Sugar cookie dough is in the fridge, waiting to be rolled out and cut.

Rugelach pinwheels are in the freezer, ready to pop in the oven.  As much as I claimed this recipe was a pain when I made it before, it's actually perfect if you've got to work in small batches.  I made the filling and the sugar dip while the baby ate his breakfast.  I mixed the dough while he ran around the house with the mower like a wild man.  I rolled out the dough and added the filling (the hardest step) while he napped.  Then I sliced it and dipped it in cinnamon sugar while he ate his dinner.

Christmas Eve Buffet:
The empanaditas are in the freezer, ready to bake.
The hummus is in the fridge.
My mother is bringing more today!

Fridge supplies:
Between the baby and the baking I have an epic amount of milk on hand.  I also have pounds and pounds of butter.

To be continued...

Sunday, July 13, 2014

First Ever Birthday Weekend!

Not for me of course, I have long believed that having a birthday entitles one to having a full weekend celebration, but this was the very first birthday for my little one.  And I cooked up a storm.

The most complicated thing I made the whole weekend, was the birthday cake.  I wanted to make it gluten-free, so that my father would be able to join in the festivities.  I also had a mini-crisis in which I decided my baby was way too little for chocolate.  In the end, I baked this lemon layer cake from Annalise Roberts* with some minor adjustments.

1.  I did not make homemade lemon curd.  I am lucky I managed to bake a cake, the lemon curd was beyond me.  I bought and used one whole jar of Dickinson's Lemond Curd.

2.  I made Ina Garten's cream cheese icing because I'm not really a buttercream person.  The recipe is here.  I substituted lemon extract for the vanilla extract and vanilla extract for the almond extract.  It was heavenly.

Now, I may be a decent baker, but I am generally not a cake baker and despite my three cake stands, I own nearly nothing in the way of cake paraphernalia.  No piping bag, no offset spatula, nothing.  So what you see above was achieved through hyperventilation, hand-wringing, a knife, some water and a ziploc bag.

This particular layer cake required cutting the layers in half, so I did that with a bread knife, holding my breath, while my father said "up, down, no - hold steady".

Gluten-free cakes are even crummier than regular cakes, so I did a crumb coat.  I popped it back in the fridge, then pulled it for a final layer of frosting.   It was a warm day so whenever things got a bit too squishy I popped everything back in the fridge and walked away.  I used a knife wet with a titch of water to smooth the coat of icing, then piped on the dots with a ziploc baggie. High class I tell you, high class.

Absolutely everyone thought the cake was ridiculously delicious, except the birthday boy, who spat out any morsel of cake or frosting that we managed to sneak past his lips.  It wasn't exactly the reaction a mother could hope for, but I'm sure by next year he will be more into the whole idea of cake.

*I have mentioned elsewhere on this blog that her baking recipes are divine - her cookbook is Gluten-Free Baking Classics and I highly recommend it if you do any amount of gluten-free baking.

Monday, June 2, 2014

What's Really For Dinner

I have been honest I hope, about exactly how basic and low-frills my cooking has been post-baby. I basically consider it a victory every time a meal goes down on the table that does not include chicken apple sausages.  One of my new staples is what I call "Mexican Bowl" which is likely not Mexican at all, but is delicious and easy.

Basic concept: Cook rice, add toppings, add dressing, eat dinner.
Easy to execute: So much of this can be prepped ahead.  Grate the cheese, chop the lettuce and tomatoes, rinse and drain the beans, mix the dressing, thaw the corn.  Come dinner, all I need to do is press start on the rice cooker, go up to put the baby to bed, come back down, cut the avocado, toss together and serve.
Versatile: I made it vegetarian this time, because it means less work, but if you had leftover chicken or rotisserie chicken on hand, that would go well too.  Also, the way I prepare it, Ryan and I both just add our toppings ourselves to the rice base.  This is great for guests, or kids, who might not want all the choices (or want to keep them separate).
Forgiving:  I wrote you a recipe, but I never use one.  I eyeball everything.  You can too!

serves 2ish hungry people

3/4 C raw rice/ brown rice/ rice quinoa blend
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 clove garlic
1 t cumin
pinch salt
olive oil
1 C shredded cheese (cheddar? monterey jack? habanero jack?)
1 C chopped tomato
1 C chopped lettuce
1 C corn (frozen is fine, ideal even)
1 1/2 avocados, chopped
optional: shredded chicken

2.5 T red wine vinegar
1 T lemon or lime juice
4 T olive oil
1/4 t cayenne
1 t cumin
1/2 t salt

Do ahead if you like: Get some bowls ready.  Fill a bowl with your chicken, another with your cheese, another with your tomato, another with the lettuce. Measure your rice product and put it in the rice cooker or pan.  Mix up the dressing in a separate bowl and set aside.
Game time: Cook the rice. I use a rice cooker, but you can use a pan.  I just always opt for the easiest way.   If you're using frozen corn, you might want it to be warm for the meal, so you can microwave it or heat it on the stove top.  In a small saucepan, heat up the olive oil on medium low.  Mince your garlic clove and add it to the oil.  Add the rinsed and drained beans and then sprinkle with the cumin and a pinch of salt (to taste).  Warm the beans.  Dice your avocado.
Assembly:  Lay down the rice, then the beans, then the corn, then your cheese (adding the cheese near the warm ingredients helps it to get a bit melty if you're into that sort of thing - which I am).  Then add your tomato, lettuce and avocado.  Pour your dressing over the whole shebang.  Enjoy.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

New Toy, New Troubles, New TASTY

We bought a grill, a Weber Spirt gas grill that is my new favorite cooking tool.  So far we have made wings (heavenly, but still perfecting our spice rub), burgers (standard issue), chicken (meh, should have used a better recipe) and pizza.  Mmmm. Pizza.  The dough was delicious beyond delicious, but I am yet a novice.  I went into pizza making with only the vaguest of recipes and the most cursory of looks on the internet.

Here is what I learned:
  • Brush your dough with olive oil, it helps with the sticking.
  • Having a grill that tells you how hot it is, is magnificently convenient and helpful.
  • Wet toppings = sad, so keep them dry so they don't interfere with the crust's crisping.
  • Keep your toppings warm.  Ours got a bit cold.  I think next time I'll put them on the raised rack in foil while we do the crust so they go on nice and hot.
  • Cheese next to the crust, it's the best way to melt it.
  • Smaller is better, because it's easier to remove
  • Thin crust is a nasty nasty thing to try to lay on the grill properly.  I will be rolling out my dough thicker next time.
  • Cooking on the grill is one billion times faster than doing it in the oven (actually, no, that is a gross exaggeration, but the oven takes 6-7 minutes for the crust and then another 5ish minutes for the toppings.  I think we went from dough on to topped pizza and off the grill in under five minutes.
Here is what I need to know:
  • How do you transfer your dough to the grill? It seems like it should be easy, but alas, it was terribly hard and resulted in some tears and much swearing.  
I promise to make many more pizzas this summer and let you know when I have hit level win.

If you have mastered the art of pizza-on-grill please, please, please share your tricks, tips and techniques in the comments.  

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Yet Another Grilled Cheese

It is entirely possible that I have never met a grilled cheese I didn't like.  But this grilled cheese is one that I didn't eat.  Not because I had anything against it, mind you, simply because I made myself a different one.  Mine was tasty, true, but since my mother-in-law proclaimed this to be the best grilled cheese she'd ever eaten, I figured I might as well share.  Now, my mother-in-law may have been exaggerating slightly as she is often overly generous with her praise of my cooking (not a bad trait at all, I must say) but my husband did confirm that it was a damn good sandwich.


2 slices of bread per person - I used multigrain, it's all I had, but I think a nice deli rye would be ideal
3 slices of bacon per person, cooked up to a crispy goodness
onions, carmelized by cooking on low heat until golden, silky and sweet
red horseradish (seriously, my husband WILL NOT with the white stuff)
grated cheddar cheese - a nice sharp cheddar, and a decent amount per person, no skimping
a tart apple (maybe half an apple per person, how much do you like apples?) like a Northern Spy or Granny Smith, sliced and sauteed until soft and juicy but not mush

Begin with the bread.  Smear one side with a thin but even layer of horseradish.  Get it all the way to the edges (doing things to the edges is key with a good grilled cheese).  Mix together your onions and apples and then carefully layer them on top of the horseradish.  Top it with half of your grated cheddar cheese.  Then apply the slices of bacon.  Top with another layer of cheddar.  Finally add the top slice of bread.

Heat up a pan to medium high (a cast iron would be lovely).  Melt a healthy pat of butter in the pan.   Plop the sandwich in the pan.  Cook until the cheese starts to melt and the bread is toasty.  Using a spatula, carefully slide from the pan.  Melt another healthy pat of putter in the pan.  Carefully flip the raw side of the sandwich so it's touching the pan.  Cook until the cheese is completely melty and the sandwich is golden on the other side as well.  Cut.  Munch.  Mmmmm.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Turnips are Terrific?

Do you eat turnips? I mean ever.  Have you ever tasted a turnip?  There is a serious anti-turnip bias in this world. This winter, I ended up with one. One turnip.  Not one anti-turnip bias.  I don't know why.  Maybe it was cheap.  Maybe it was for the baby.  Maybe my mom's neighbor got it in his CSA and gave it to her and then she gave it to me thinking I would eat it.  That seems the most likely.  So what's a girl to do?  I hate waste, so I cooked the thing. Turns out, turnips are quite tasty and subsequently I went and purchased more turnips with the intention of eating them.  My only problem is that literally every single time I make turnips, someone will start whining about it before they have even taken a bit. That someone is never the baby, who scarfs the things down without complaint.  It is usually a grown person who should know that I would not repeatedly serve something that tastes bad and should also be mature enough to not whine.  So just in case you've got a few lurking at the bottom of your vegetable drawer, waiting to be used up, here's how to make turnips taste terrific.*+

*no promises. If you think beets taste like dirt, I have no clue what you'll think of turnips.  I find turnips to be somewhere between a potato, a radish and an apple, three foods that do not initially seem to have much in common.  If cooked well, they can be starchy and slightly sweet.

+I said taste terrific, not smell.  Turnips smell…like turnips.  It is not the best food smell I know, so let's leave it at that.

3 C Turnips
3-5 T butter
1/4 C water + 1 t Better than Bullion (Chicken Flavor)
salt and pepper

Cut your turnips up nice and small, I think I did a 1/4" dice (or would have if my dicing were accurate like that).  Melt your butter over medium low heat.  Add the cut up turnips.  Let them sit for about 5 minutes, they should develop some color.  Then turn them and let them cook for another 5 minutes (more color!).  Finally, add your liquid.  I bet you could use a quarter cup of chicken stock, but I think the water + bullion is more concentrated in flavor?  Anyway.  Let the turnips cook another 5-10 minutes.  You don't want them to be mushy, but they shouldn't be hard.  Add salt and pepper at the end, because your stock/bullion/whathaveyou may be saltier than you think!

Monday, May 5, 2014

A Taste of Spring

As the calendar turns from April to May, I can only hope the torrential rains go the way of the proverbial showers and bring plenty of beautiful flowers.  I can't quite stomach any more rains or the hearty dinners I crave when the weather is nasty.  I want bright, sharp, crisp spring tastes!  But I never would have expected to love this particular spring salad.  It has zucchini in it and I think I've made it abundantly clear how I feel about zucchini.  But my Uncle John was visiting and he seems to have made it a personal quest to get me to love the few vegetables I despise, and so he turned out this perfect spring salad.  As I helped myself to another serving, he modestly asked if I was eating it just to be polite.  It was my fourth serving.  I do not do fourths just to be polite.  If your palate is craving spring as much as you're craving the sunshine, definitely try this.  And have fourths, if you want. I won't judge.

1 bunch asparagus
1 zucchini
1 lemon
1/4 C olive oil
salt to taste

Wash your produce and locate a large serving platter.  Cut off your asparagus below the bottom knuckle, you don't want that overly woody tough bottom bit.  Then using a peeler, slowly, carefully, create long fettucini like slices of your asparagus.  Work top, then bottom and you'll end up with a long slightly thicker bit in the middle, but that's okay, once it's marinated it will be as tender as your other bits.  Then using a mandolin (or your knife if you're skilled like that), julienne your zucchini. My uncle used the outer sections, leaving a core of about a quarter inch cube.  Arrange the zucchini and asparagus on your platter, tossed gently and allowed to twist and turn over itself.  Zest and juice one lemon.  Mix the lemon juice with 1/4 C of olive oil and pour all over your zucchini and asparagus salad.  Then sprinkle the zest over the top.  Allow it to marinate a bit before eating if you can.  I think ours sat for about an hour, but I'm sure it would be delicious even with a shorter wait time.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Will a Menu Do?

This.  This is where I have been.  This is what keeps me from typing up real recipes and often times, even cooking things that would be worthy of the blog at all.

But despite this sweet distraction, I managed to host my parents and grandmother for Easter. No new recipes of my own device, but plenty, plenty of cooking.  I could not have gotten through the cooking without my mother.  In fact, I was so overwhelmed that one night I dreamt that I overslept and she made all the waffles.  But the food was all so delicious, that even though I did not once raise my camera above the table, I still need to share it with you.

Saturday Lunch

Greek Pasta Salad - Ideal because I mixed it up during naptime, sent Ryan out in search of crusty bread to serve with it, and then was able to put it on the table within minutes of my guests arriving.  I used Barilla Gluten-Free pasta so my dad would be able to enjoy it, and it worked perfectly.

Saturday Dinner

Mark Bittman's Spicy Shrimp - Takes no time at all.  No grill this time, so we did it in the oven.  Juicy delicious shrimp, requiring the minimum effort.

Fried Polenta - A hybrid of Ina Garten's original recipe for the rosemary, parm and red pepper flakes, and my own adaptation which uses less cream and butter.  This is gluten-free as long as you dust your triangles of polenta in cornstarch, not flour.  Oh, and did I mention it's easiest to pour the polenta into a pie plate and cut wedges rather than using a square pan?  Because it is.

Baked Artichokes - These are delicious.  Do not be skeptical just because it's a Rachel Ray recipe.  Use the anchovies.  You will not be disappointed.  Also, it looks pretty impressive, but is really easy to make.

Easter Sunday Brunch

Deviled Eggs were a must.

Buttermilk Waffles - I obviously did not make them with bananas, because bananas are gross.  But I did make them with whipped cream and strawberries, which was delicious. It was my first time using the waffle iron, so I'm not sure I did a great job with the whole waffle thing, but they are really great and crisp leftover.  I've got a stack of them in my freezer.

Easter Dinner

Duck Breast  - I cannot miss with this recipe.  It is always spot on.

Pommes Anna - except my mother really did make them, so they were as nice as my mother's.

Roast Asparagus - no recipe, just a bunch of beautiful spring asparagus (pick the skinny ones), laid out on a pan, drizzled with olive oil, sprinkled with salt and pepper and roasted at 425 for 10 minutes.  Perfection.

Easter Dessert

Lemon Ricotta Cake  - I did not do the layer of lemon curd, because of the time and effort required.

I did however, make it gluten-free with some help from the amazing and wonderful Annalise Roberts, who helped me with the adaptions.

What you need to make it gluten-free:
Her gluten-free flour mix, which you can purchase ready made from Amazon: Authentic Foods GF Classical Blend - 3lb

So make the recipe with the following adjustments:
Substitute her flour blend for the regular flour, 1 to 1 substitution.
Add 1/2 t of xanthan gum
Reduce the butter to 10 T
Reduce the sugar to 1 1/4 C
Increase vanilla to 2 t (oh come on, you were going to do that anyway).

The result is delicious.  I swear no one would know that you're serving gluten-free cake.
And if you like it?  Definitely buy her book: Gluten-Free Baking Classics because it's full of gluten-free recipes that actually work.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Party Pizzas

It's been really hard for me to come back here.  I haven't wanted anything else to replace Dexter's picture at the top of the screen.  And yet, I've also avoided even looking at the home page, because seeing him brings me too much pain.  But here I am, and I come bearing pizza.  It's the not the first time I've done fancy pizza for Oscar night and with how delicious these turned out, I'm willing to bet it won't be the last.

The plan had been to make pizza topped with smoked turkey from the delicious looking turkey legs they have at Whole Foods, but Whole Foods was unfortunately without turkey and I was left wandering aimlessly.  Which is when a yogurt maker (I am not even kidding you) who was giving out samples asked what he could do for me.  I told him I really didn't need yogurt, I needed smoked turkey legs because now I had not one clue what to do about dinner.  

Luckily, he did.  Claiming to have been a chef in his pre-yogurt making days, he recommended dried plums (*cough* prunes *cough*) to complement my likely cheese choice of gruyere.  And then while wandering through the dried fruit section I scooped up some dried mission figs as well.  

And behold.  Two amazing pizzas, both of which I would gladly eat again.

Unfortunately my recipes are a bit sketchy.  I've got to ease back into this thing, you know?


1/4 recipe dough
1 C mozzarella
4-5 oz ricotta cheese
3-4 slices duck bacon, chopped into bits and sautéed until crisp
8-10 small figs (maybe about a cups worth?) sliced thin
fresh baby spinach
balsamic vinegar and olive oil

Bake the dough for 5-7 minutes at 450 or until it starts to harden.  Top with the cup of mozzarella, the duck bacon bits, the figs and spoonfuls of the fresh ricotta.  Rinse and dry the baby spinach, tear off any overly long stems and quickly toss the spinach in a bit of balsamic and olive oil, just enough to barely dress it.  Lay the spinach over the pizza and then pop it back into the oven for 5 minutes or until the cheese is melty.  


1/4 recipe dough
1/2 C mozzarella
1/2 C comte
1/4 C fontina (although play fast and loose with the cheese amounts, really)
1/2 an onion, sliced very thin, cooked in a bit of olive oil over low heat until soft and golden
5-6 dried plums, sliced

Bake the dough at 450 for 5-7 minutes or until it starts to harden.  Top with the cheese, sprinkle over the caramelized onions and place on the dried plums.  Pop back in the oven for 5 minutes or until the cheese is melty and delicious.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Goodnight Sweetheart

I'm sorry I haven't been here.  My heart just hasn't been in it.  My sweetheart, my beloved Dexter, had to be put to sleep right after Christmas.  I sat up with him the night before we said goodbye and I wrote him this:

Dear Dexter,

I miss you already.  I miss the way you learned to lick my ears because I would turn my face away when you tried to cover it with kisses.  I miss how you demanded tickles, pawing my arm relentlessly if I dared to stop.  I loved how you wanted attention and cuddling, even sticking your nose right over the top of a book and leaving it there or smacking it until I put it down, the hell if I was trying to read.  At night when I watched TV I would lay on my side and you would come curl up in that empty space.  I hate having that space empty.  I chose you because I wanted a dog that would love me back.  Thank you for loving me.  For letting me carry you in my arms like a baby, with your hindpaws on each side of my hip and front paws around my neck.  

I wish I could see you again as a puppy, bouncing up and down so high that you once jumped straight in through the open driver's side window of a car shocking my friend who had double parked.   I wish I could again find you snuggled into a special hiding place, like the laundry basket or the second shelf of my closet.  

I will never see a blizzard without wishing you were there to bound into and over the snowdrifts, shoving your muzzle deep and coming up with a little snow crusted beard.  I will not hear a middle of the night thunderstorm without thinking I should bring you into the bedroom so you won't be scared and waiting while you went back to bring your stuffed elephant, Lovey, in with us too.  

I will NOT miss your houdini like escape skills, breaking out of a kitchen that was gated, then a kitchen that was gated and secured with a bungee cord.  I will NOT miss your Usain Bolt level speed if ever you managed to escape, leading me on a not so merry chase through city streets needing to be lured back by a stranger's kindness and her chicken sandwich.  

In the morning I will let you nibble a few bits of scone, since you prized baked goods above all other foods.  And then I will have to say goodbye.  It's going to hurt me a lot more than it will hurt you, because slowly you have stopped doing all these things that made you your very own self.  And I know I need to let you go.  But I wanted you for years before I had you and I will want you still for years after you have gone.

Who is going to lick away my tears now bear?

I loved this little dog so very very much and miss him every day.  Here he is in all of his fuzzy glory.


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